The Syracuse Crunch resorted to desperate hockey late in the season.
Despite a promising start, midseason injuries and call-ups left the lineup scrambling, forcing some players to play out of position and outside of their normal roles. A nine-game slide in January and February made the chances of a playoff berth a longshot, but the Crunch rallied with 18 out of 24 possible standings points in March.
Ultimately, the late season push came too late. The Crunch couldn’t keep the frantic pace and finished fourth place in the North Division with 79 points (32-29-11-4), eight away from a playoff spot.
“I don’t think we played desperate hockey early enough in the season,” Crunch forward Tanner Richard said. “It’s a good lesson for me and every other guy that’s here … You can’t wait until the last 15 or 20 games to make your playoff push. The points at the start of the season are worth the same as the ones at the end of the season, and the ones at the end are harder to get.”
This week’s “Andrei Nazarov Edition" of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:
· No. 62
· Game 1 recap
· Bizarro World Cooper
· Syracuse newbies
· Interview with Matt Spencer
After their junior season ended in a Game 7 loss to North Bay in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs on April 5, the Peterborough Petes defensive pairing was on the ice for Syracuse Crunch practice less than 48 hours later.
One week into their stay in Syracuse, the duo are looking to learn what they can together before they take different paths next season.
“It’s been a whirlwind so far, especially coming off a tough seven game series in the OHL playoffs,” Spencer said. “Coming right here was all pretty quick, but it’s been great. The facilities are awesome and everyone has been treating the new guys extremely well.”
Jonne Tammela stepped onto the ice for the first time in Syracuse Monday morning.
The Finnish forward, who arrived Saturday after signing an amateur tryout to finish this season with the Crunch, went through skating drills with a handful of teammates during the split practice at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
Tammela is hoping his stint in Syracuse gives him a head start in transitioning to the North American game next fall.
“I hope I can learn more about the system we play and more about North American hockey,” Tammela said. “It’s quite different in Europe, so it will be helpful for me.”
This week’s “Cory Stillman” extended version of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (shorter version available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:
· No. 61
· Slim margin for error entering playoffs
· Drouin’s back
· Junior playoffs overiew
· Interviews with Anthony Cirelli, Mitchell Stephens
· #BPMailbag (Mind games … Syr top line vs TB … Too late to tank? … Prospects ahead of schedule … Odd-man rushes missing … Kucherov vs. Tarasenko … Team more ready for Cup run? … Marchessault to Siberia … DeAngelo an NHL option? … Black Aces impact … Point to take over for Johnson? … Craziest season ever? … Draft type target … Goalie equipment affect Bishop vs Vasy? … Can a team play in a shell when they don’t have the lead?)
Note: Apologies for poor audio quality this week
There were two new faces on the ice for Syracuse Crunch practice Tuesday.
Mitchell Stephens and Anthony Cirelli, two Tampa Bay Lightning picks from the 2015 draft, took the ice for the first time in Syracuse after signing amateur tryouts with the Crunch this week. The split practice involved lots of shooting and possession drills for the two centers, who stuck together throughout most of the workouts.
Although Stephens and Cirelli will likely return to their respective junior teams next season, the Lightning organization wanted both players to get a sample of the game at the pro level.
“They’re two smart hockey players,” Crunch head coach Rob Zettler said. “They both have another year of junior left, but we wanted to get them in here and give them a taste of pro hockey. We’ll see -- I’m not sure -- whether they’ll play or not. We’ll see what happens over the course of the next five games.”
This week’s “José Théodore Bank Shot” extended version of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:
· No. 60
· Lightning vs Maple Marlies
· Fennelly calls out Cooper
· Give me Bishop or give me death
· Syracuse making a run, but Drouin just a puzzle piece
· Junior playoffs (We see you, Mathieu Joseph)
· Interview with the newest member of the Lightning organization, Ben Thomas
· #BPMailbag (Koekkoek being Drouinned? … Does TB get out of first round sans Stalman? … Draft philosophy change necessary? … Drouin to Colorado?)
It took a shift or two, but Ben Thomas’ nerves subsided.
Less than a week after signing his entry level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 19-year-old defenseman made his professional debut with the Syracuse Crunch in a 3-1 win over the Rochester Americans Saturday.
Thomas has quickly settled in on the Crunch’s blue line.
“I was a little nervous going in, obviously, but I thought after I got that first shift out of the way and felt the puck a little bit I settled down,” Thomas said. “I think it went pretty smoothly.”
· No. 59
· More Drouinsanity
· Lightning roller coaster going up again
· New Lightning identity
· Thomas signed; more on the way?
· A Norwegian #BPMailbag
Matt Taormina’s role with the Syracuse Crunch includes a little bit of everything.
The defenseman is one of the team’s main power play quarterbacks, a top penalty killer, a workhorse on the blue line during 5-on-5, and a veteran presence in the room. Taormina’s play has earned him a spot in the AHL All-Star Classic, as well multiple call-ups to the Tampa Bay Lightning this season.
In his seventh full pro season, Taormina still lets his play do most of the talking.
“His best asset as far as being a role model for the players is how he approaches the game during practice and in the games,” Crunch head coach Rob Zettler said. “He’s not a real vocal guy who’s loud and in people’s face. He just does his job.”